“Hershel!” yelled an enthusiastic middle-aged voice.
“Hi, Mom,” Hershel said, embarrassment welling up as his mother gave him a tremendous embrace.
The Melbrook students were gathered in the common room, relaxing after gym on Friday. In honor of the weekend’s occasion, the dorm’s front steel door had been deactivated, allowing visitors to enter as they pleased. It was a nice way around reminding the parents that their children had been experimented on and were still under careful watch. Plus, it saved anyone from having to get up to welcome people.
Hershel’s mother had been the first to arrive, so the remainder of the students got up from their chairs to greet her. All of them were there, though Nick and Vince were present purely to meet the makers of their dorm mates.
“These must be your friends I’ve heard so much about,” Mrs. Daniels said after she had thoroughly squeezed Hershel. “I feel like I know them already. The one with the silver hair must be Vince.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Daniels,” Vince said.
“Good to meet you, too. And I see the other boy is wearing sunglasses indoors and curiously well-dressed, so that would be Nick.”
“Bingo,” Nick affirmed. He’d gussied himself up a bit in honor of the night to come. He liked to make the right kind of impression on the ladies of the evening.
“Which leaves these two lovely young ladies as Mary and Alice,” Mrs. Daniels concluded.
“Correct,” Alice said. “I’m Alice and this is Mary. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Daniels, we greatly enjoy our friendship with Hershel.”
“Ditto,” Mary agreed, somewhat shyly.
“Well, you are such a polite bunch,” Mrs. Daniels said. “I’m glad to see Hershel has made such nice friends.” She turned back to her son. “All right, let’s go see your room and then we can go out to dinner.”
“Sounds great,” Hershel said, relieved his mother didn’t want to dally too much with the others. He loved his mother very dearly, but there were certain times in a boy’s life when a maternal presence is one of pure, unbridled embarrassment. Being around a girl you’re trying to work up the nerve to ask out was definitely one of those times.
Hershel took his mother by the hand and walked her into the boys’ lounge, the steel door whooshing shut behind them.
“She seemed pleasant,” Vince observed once they had gone.
“Yeah. Makes you wonder what kind of nutjob the dad must be to have produced a kid like Roy,” Nick added.
Nick felt something kick him sharply in the shin. He glanced down, immediately suspecting Alice, only to see nothing there. On a hunch he glanced over at Mary. The look in her eyes left no room to wonder about the nature of his invisible assailant.
Before he had a chance to react, though, Mary’s focus shifted abruptly.
“Ooh! My parents are here,” she cried. “I’m heading out to meet them. See you guys later!”
“Wait, we don’t get to meet the folks that spawned our local wacky telepath? I feel gypped,” Nick complained.
“It’s nothing personal; they’re just normal people and they’re not used to being around Supers,” Mary said, making her way to the door. “I need to get them a little adjusted first. I promise I’ll bring them around once they can better handle themselves.” With that, she was out the door like a shot.
“I still sort of feel like we just got brushed off,” Vince said.
“Either we did or they did, and I’m not about to go rooting around the psyche of a telepath trying to figure it out,” Nick replied.
“Amen to that,” Alice agreed.
There were no new arrivals immediately following Mary’s departure, so the other three returned to lounging about. Well, Nick and Vince lounged. Alice sat carefully so as not to wrinkle or upset the outfit she had purchased. The effort was understandable; after all, the girl looked sleek. Her black dress was complimented by a mere whisper of pink trim, along with matching shoes and a handbag. She’d spent more time that she would ever admit on getting her makeup just right, which essentially meant making it look like she wasn’t wearing any. Her long, platinum blonde hair was pulled up and styled, with a few key strands hanging down for effect. In short, she was the picture of adolescent elegance, just as she had been taught to be for many, many years.
“I got to go take a wiz,” Nick announced, hurling himself up from the chair.
“You are so amazingly crude,” Alice sighed.
“That wasn’t crude. Crude would be saying I need to go defile the porcelain,” Nick countered.
“Touché?” Alice said, not quite certain whether it was a win for Nick or a loss for everyone in the room. Nick didn’t stick around to find out; he headed over to the boys’ side and swept through the door.
The next man to walk into the room was not a returning Nick with an empty bladder. It was instead a gentleman dressed simply yet spectacularly. He wore black slacks, a white shirt open at the throat, and a black jacket. A simple pair of cufflinks and a watch were all the accessory added on to his ensemble. It was a classic look, yet not an impressive one. Unless, of course, one was aware of how much each piece of the outfit cost. At that point, he was a picture of splendor and decadence.
“Good evening,” said the tall, suited man.
“Hi, Daddy!” Alice said, extracting herself carefully from her chair. It was a difficult task, not only because of the dress but because of the wave of excitement that crashed against her. She and her father didn’t see each other all that often, and this was the first time she could ever remember him making a trip specifically to spend time with her.
“Hi, Mr. Adair,” Vince said, pulling himself to his feet and sticking out his hand. “I’m Vince Reynolds.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Vince,” he said, pumping the hand once and immediately releasing it. “I would love to stay and get to know you better, but unfortunately Alice and I are shorter on time than I’d intended.”
“Oh, no problem,” Vince said. “You guys have fun tonight.”
“Erm... we’ll certainly try. Alice, are you ready?”
“Ready,” Alice chimed off brightly.
“Then let us make some haste,” he said, flashing Vince a million dollar smile. It seemed just a touch familiar to Vince, but it quickly slipped out of his mind.
Just like that, Vince was the only one left in the room. He sat back down and waited for Nick to finish his business so they could go eat. It was only a few seconds of waiting when Nick stepped back in from the boys’ side.
“What’d I miss?”
“Alice’s dad,” Vince told him.
“Damn, I was looking forward to that one,” Nick lied. “Oh well, what’s done is done. Food?”
“Sounds great,” Vince agreed. He hopped to his feet and turned toward the door, just in time to see an unfamiliar man step through it. The man was dressed casually in jeans and a shirt. He was fit without being intimidating, and average looking in nearly every facet. Vince started to ask the man his business here when Nick’s voice from behind cut him off. It was filled with something odd in Nick’s tone, something Vince wasn’t certain he’d ever heard there before. It was thick with surprise.